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Saturday, 27 April, 2002, 05:32 GMT 06:32 UK
Plane-spotters warned over appeal
Lesley Coppin hears the verdict in court
The group were stunned by the verdicts
The British plane-spotters found guilty of spy charges in Greece have been warned they are unlikely to clear their names through the Greek courts.

Human rights lawyer Stephen Jakobi, of Fair Trials Abroad, said he believed the only option open to them now was to take their case to the European courts.

His advice comes as the 12 plane-spotters are due to arrive back in England, less than 24 hours after six of them - and two Dutchmen - were found guilty of espionage at a military air show.

The eight were sentenced to three years in prison, but were told they could go home pending their appeal.

The remaining six Britons were found guilty of aiding and abetting and were given sentences of one year each, suspended for three years.

'Expensive'

The 12 Britons are due to fly back to Luton airport on Saturday morning, but all have vowed to return to Greece to clear their names.

Norris is sentenced to three years in jail
Peter Norris, one of the convicted spotters, was comforted by his wife Perdita
But Mr Jakobi warned them they should effectively write off an appeal in Greece, and instead concentrate on the European courts.

"I don't believe there is a cat in hell's chance of getting anywhere in the Greek courts," he said.

"I see only one reason for going back, which is to spend as little money as possible on getting the appeal turned down, which is what will happen, before taking it to Europe."

The main problem for the plane-spotters was that they could not now afford to conduct an expensive appeal which would inevitably fail, Mr Jakobi added.

'Disproportionate'

If the group was to go back to Greece to fight the sentences and face the possibility of jail, then the government should provide some sort of help, he said.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said on Friday evening he was "shocked" by the scale of the sentences.

He was relieved the plane-spotters were being allowed home - for the time being - and stressed he and his staff would continue to offer them support.

Downing Street said the Prime Minister Tony Blair believed the case had been "disproportionate" and had discussed it with his Greek counterpart, Costas Simitis.

National security

All the members of the group had denied the espionage charges, which carry a maximum penalty of five years in jail or a hefty fine.

They were arrested at an air show in Kalamata, southern Greece, last November, and charged with taking pictures in a military zone.

The plane-spotters insisted they were at the show on the invitation of the Greek authorities and that any information collected was already freely available.

But Greek prosecutors told the court in Kalamata they knew what they were doing was illegal and could compromise the country's national security.

They spent five weeks in prison before being released on 14 Dec after posting bail of 9,000 each.

Originally they faced a felony charge of spying, which carries a 20-year sentence, but this was later downgraded to misdemeanour charges.

Those found guilty of espionage are:

  • Paul Coppin, 45, of Mildenhall, Suffolk
  • Peter Norris, 52, of Uxbridge, west London
  • Antoni Adamiak, 37, of London
  • Andrew Jenkins, 32, from York
  • Graham Arnold, 38, from Ottershaw, Surrey
  • Gary Fagan, 30, from Kegworth, Leicestershire
  • Patrick Dirksen, 27, from Eindhoven, Netherlands
  • Frank Mink, 28, from Den Helder, Netherlands

Those found guilty of aiding and abetting are:

  • Lesley Coppin, 51, Mildenhall, Suffolk
  • Michael Bussell, 47, of Swanland, near Hull
  • Michael Keane, 57, of Dartford, Kent
  • Steven Rush, 38, from Caterham, Surrey
  • Christopher Wilson, 46, from Gatwick, West Sussex
  • Wayne Groves, 38, from Tamworth, Staffordshire
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The BBC's Jane Hughes
"The events are still sinking in"
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